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Booklist starred review, July 1, 2014:
"A great choice for book groups and class discussions as well as individual reading."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, September 2014:
Holm’s writing is crisp, accessible, and well paced, and her enthusiasm for science and its impact emerges clearly and consistently but not overbearingly, with clear, appreciative nods to the world of theater and its purpose in our lives. Indeed, this novel explores weighty elements of human existence with a light touch, allowing readers to engage with the issues at multiple levels; an excellent appendix of recommended readings encourages exploration and dialogue. This novel would make an ideal classroom read aloud, particularly to expose students to the rich and rewarding STEM fields.
Posted October 20, 2014
Summary – Ellie’s parents keep telling her she needs to find her passion in life, but lately Ellie is only feeling numb. The start of sixth grade is not going well. Her best friend, Brianna, is more interested in the volleyball team than being with Ellie, middle school seems like an alien world, and she just found out that her parents have been replacing her beloved pet goldfish “Goldie” with a new fish for the past seven years every time a “Goldie” died! Things get a lot more complicated when her mom brings home an ornery, pushy, oddly dressed teenage boy who just happens to be Ellie’s scientist grandfather (Melvin) who found a cure for old age, but has been locked out of his lab by its new owners. Will Ellie ever find her passion or at least survive middle school now that her grandfather is enrolled as a student?
What I thought – I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK. I loved everything about it. I loved it so much I told my mom to read it (she is a scientist) and she loved it too. I really like that the book isn’t focused on the wacky science experiment that turned Ellie’s grandfather, Melvin, into a teenager, but rather it is focused on Ellie’s struggle to find her “passion,” dealing with growing apart from a friend, and getting closer to her grandfather. The wacky science stuff happens all around all these big topics. Of course I love Melvin. He is so cranky and nerdy it’s awesome! That part of the story is hilarious! I also like that there is real science facts in the book not just the wacky reversing age thing. It also teaches an important lesson about the power of science and how it has to be used wisely (I sound like Uncle Ben in Spiderman “With great power comes great responsibility” ;) ). One of my favorite character interactions is how Ellie and her grandfather get to know each other better and they both seem to help each other. The book is just an awesome read. The chapters are very short and you just want to read the whole thing right away. One thing I noticed is that on each chapter heading, there are that many goldfish (like one goldfish on chapter 1 and two goldfish on chapter 2 and so on) up until chapters 14, 15 and 16 – they all have 14 goldfish. Then chapter 17 has 13 goldfish, 18 has 12 and so on until the last chapter has just one goldfish again. Okay that’s pretty nerdy of me to notice that, but I still think it’s cool. ;)
*NOTE* I got a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
Posted October 12, 2014
Who or what was the fourteenth goldfish? Well, the first thirteen were goldfish, of course. But the fourteenth was the impossible made possible, at least in this story.
Ellie had just entered the sixth grade. Everything was different yet very much the same--a different building and some new students but with the same attitudes she'd left behind. She felt like a nobody. She still sat alone for lunch. Even her childhood best friend had drifted away when her interest was snagged by volleyball.
Then one day a new boy about Ellie's age came home with her mom. Lissa was the school drama teacher; Ellie was used to students coming home with her. But this was not a typical drama student. His name was Marvin and he looked strangely familiar. He wore clothes we would associate with a 70-year-old man. He talked to her mother as if he knew her well. He reminded Ellie of her grandfather, who lived close by but whom they didn't see often because he and her mom didn't see eye-to-eye on much. He was a scientist. Her mom was an artist. Suddenly life became very interesting. Marvin was her grandfather in a thirteen-year-old's body.
Perhaps because of her age, or maybe because of her grandfather's influence, Ellie began to see the world in a different way. Marvin was interesting to talk to. He taught her about science and history--how big changes came to the world through inventions and discoveries. But the learning was a two-way street. Marvin had gotten stuck in a rut. He wasn't thinking of the consequences of the experiment that allowed him to reverse aging. Frankly, he thought like a 76-year-old man. He needed fresh perspective, which is exactly what he got living with his daughter and granddaughter, forced to attend school with Ellie. Now, Ellie was a thinker, and she challenged him. In the end, all three learned valuable lessons from each other. Ahead of them, life was filled with possibilities.
The author writes this story from Ellie's perspective. The humor is quirky, and sure to be enjoyed by middle school readers who like the off-the-wall type of viewpoint. The chapters are short and simple. Some of the chapters seem pointless and don't move the story along very well, yet set the tone just the same. The reading level is low for a middle grade book so that I believe a younger good reader would enjoy it as well. There is no crude language in the book. Bullying is not an issue in this volume, and the student disparity is only lightly touched on. The book is written for entertainment purposes, not overly focused on the tough issues of life.
The author herself grew up in a home where science was a given. Both her parents were in the medical field. It wasn't unusual for the cottage cheese and a bacterial culture growing in a petri dish to be side by side in the refrigerator. It was natural for her to incorporate a love of science into her writing as she did in this book. The theme is not overly intrusive or pushy. The author just uses Ellie's natural curiosity and growing awareness of what the life of a scientist could be like to grow her character. It's good writing. This is a book I would love a young scientist-to-be to read.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley, on behalf of Random House Books for Young Readers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
Posted September 18, 2014
‘You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him discover it for himself’ ~ Galileo Galilei
Science fiction is becoming reality in Ellie’s house! It may take her a few minutes to catch up, but she does eventually realize that the teen ordering her mother around is really her grandfather, Melvin.
The thing is, Ellie finds her grandfather tremendously interesting and fun… though she’d much prefer for him to be his own age again.
What I liked: The Fourteenth Goldfish was a cute middle-grade book. It was interesting and fast-paced. The huge underlying lesson is one that should stay with them for a long time.
What I didn’t like: I think this is going to be a niche book. There are a lot of science terms and references that not all middle-graders will enjoy.
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Source: Random House Books for Young Readers via Netgalley
Setting: San Francisco, CA
Posted September 13, 2014
Things get strange when Ellie's elderly grandfather shows up at her house as a teenage boy. Grandpa is a scientist and he's discovered a way to reverse aging. Now he's living with Ellie and her mom, and things are very strange.
The Fourteenth Goldfish is getting so much positive buzz! There have been talks of it winning the Newbery, the Goodreads page is glowing, and it was even selected for the 2014 Global Read Aloud. So it feels like blasphemy to say, but I found The Fourteenth Goldfish kind of disappointing.
The Fourteenth Goldfish just didn't feel complete to me. It's a really straight-forward, single-plot story so that should make it easy to follow, but there were gaps in the narrative that made me lose track of how much time was passing and how various events were connected. A longer book, maybe from different perspectives, may have worked better.
Still, it was a fun read with some great moments. Grandpa Melvin may be one of my favorite characters in a long time.
People seem to really like the science aspect of this book, but it really disappointed me. Maybe it's because I have worked with researchers on how kids view scientists, but this book reinforced more stereotypes than it combated. However, I love love loved the talk about believing in possibilities and that scientists are passionate people who don't give up.
Overall, The Fourteenth Goldfish may provide a good starting point for classroom conversations about science, scientists, and fuzzy morality.
Note: I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Posted August 26, 2014
It’s a fun story centering around eleven-year old Ellie and her grandfather. Bickering with her mother, a young male makes his way into the house accompanying Ellie’s mom wearing polyester pants and a tweed jacket. Ellie thinks this teen looks a bit like her grandfather but how can that be? This thirteen- year old youngster cannot be her seventy-six year old grandfather. With twenty-twenty vision, a head of hair, arthritis gone and his hearing good as new, Ellie grandfather has found the way to reverse aging. He then used this treatment upon himself. Reading this, I thought of the movie, Big and I was excited. To be young again, really young, would I go back in time and live my life over? Grandpa did something terrific but would he be able to reap the benefits? Did he want to be a kid again and have fun or was he just doing this for science since he was a scientist? Grandfather feels like he has the world at his hands but first, he needs to deal with the implications of being young and no one recognizing him. Ellie gets a lot of grandpa time as he is now her babysitter and he must also go to school with Ellie as he adjusts to being a teenager again. The author does a terrific job adding lots of fascinating science facts and details into the storyline all throughout the story. Science is a process and the two of them discover parts of the process together. The duo of Ellie and her grandfather, these two are quite something at school and home. Grandfather has years of experience and education but in a body of an adolescent and his granddaughter, she’s young but she’s sharp also. They are truly a remarkable pair.
I received a complimentary e-book from NetGalley and Random House BFYR in exchange for my honest review. Thank you.